- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 6, 2001

NEW YORK The U.S. government yesterday opened its trial against four men charged in the deadly 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, accusing them of conspiring with Saudi millionaire Osama bin Laden to "kill Americans anywhere in the world they can be found."
The four defendants "each helped the best way they could, and in the end 224 men, women and children from Kenya, Tanzania and America lost their lives," prosecutor Paul Butler told a packed federal courtroom yesterday morning. "For that, this trial seeks justice."
Mr. Butler described the impact of the two blasts Aug. 7, 1998, saying they were strong enough to reduce buildings to piles of rubble. In addition to the 224 killed, including 12 Americans, the blasts injured thousands and destroyed the embassies and nearby buildings.
"What it did to human beings that day defies description," Mr. Butler said. "Words and numbers cannot describe the horror."
After a monthlong jury selection, the government opened its trial against the men, accusing them of participating in a global conspiracy of terror to "kill Americans anywhere in the world they can be found."
The defendants have pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy and murder.
Mohamed Rashed Daoud Owhali, 24, of Saudi Arabia and Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, 27, of Tanzania could get the death penalty if found guilty of making the bombs or transporting them to the embassies, as outlined in the 308-count indictment.
Wadih Hage, 41, a Lebanese-born U.S. citizen living in Arlington, Texas, and Mohamed Sadeek Odeh, 35, of Jordan face life in prison without parole for reportedly participating in bin Laden's terrorist organization, al Qaeda.
Their trial, conducted in the same courtroom where the United States prosecuted the suspects in the World Trade Center bombings, is expected to take about a year.
A fifth defendant, Ali Mohamed, already has pleaded guilty. His plea agreement is sealed, and it is unknown whether he will testify at the trial. A total of 22 men have been indicted in relation to the embassy bombings, but 13 of them including bin Laden are still at large.
The reclusive scion of a prominent Saudi family, bin Laden is said to be orchestrating his jihad, or war, against Americans from Afghanistan.
Mr. Butler said yesterday that the two bombings "were neither the beginning nor the end of a terrorist plot to kill Americans" but part of a campaign that had begun in the mid-1980s.
"Bin Laden saw this as an opportunity to use well-trained soldiers to overthrow governments he did not like," Mr. Butler, an assistant U.S. attorney, told the jury in his 45-minute opening remarks. He said bin Laden's followers shared his "extremist philosophy."
Prosecutors have assembled a case that is to include the testimony of 100 witnesses from six countries and thousands of pieces of evidence, including photographs from the crime scenes, forensic evidence, ballistics reports and chemical analyses.
A detailed confession from Mr. Owhali could be the most damning evidence in the prosecutors' pile of exhibits.
The Saudi apparently told FBI agents that he had met with bin Laden six weeks before the bombings and even rode along on the truck used to deliver the Nairobi bomb. He also said that Kahlfan Khamis Mohamed rented a house in Tanzania in which to assemble the bombs.
Defense attorneys have tried for nearly a month to convince Judge Leonard B. Sand to throw out the confession, which they say was obtained without the knowledge of Mr. Owhali's attorneys.
Defense attorneys took the floor yesterday afternoon, seeking to convince the jury of six men and six women that their clients were good men who could never violate the national laws, or those of Islam.
Sam Schmidt, one of Mr. Hage's lawyers, acknowledged that his client traveled on behalf of bin Laden, but said that "he only related to bin Laden as a businessman."
Security has been reinforced around the already imposing Daniel Patrick Moynihan U.S. Courthouse, which is surrounded by federal buildings and historic landmarks. Security for the area, called Foley Square, has been dramatically reinforced for the trial, which is expected to last a year.
High-resolution surveillance cameras will record activity around the courthouse and inside the courtroom as well.
Heavy-duty steel barricades manufactured by the same company that designed security for the Supreme Court and the Pentagon have been installed at either ends of the street running beside the courthouse. They can be lowered to allow traffic to pass or lifted to halt a speeding truck.
Yesterday, heavily armed uniformed guards, often with bomb-sniffing dogs, patrolled the area, which was nearly deserted because of the chilly wind and damp snow.
This article is based in part on wire-service reports

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